The following questions and explanations are meant to help potential applicants determine whether the AZA Conservation Grants Fund (CGF) is an appropriate source of funding for their project’s needs and to ease application completion and submission process.

What are the important CGF dates each year?

  • CGF applications become available in January. 
  • Completed proposals are due at 5:00 pm EST on 15 March. Applications time-stamped after this deadline will not be considered for funding.
  • Applicants will be notified of award/rejection decisions in September. 
  • If your proposal is awarded, funding will become available after 1 October.

Who can apply for a CGF grant?

Each Principal Investigator (PI) identified on the application must have an independent AZA Membership (including those employed by an AZA-accredited institution). All others should be listed as collaborators in the narrative of the proposal and do not need to be members of AZA. The roles and qualifications of all collaborators should be described in detail and their CVs may be attached to the application if appropriate. Learn more about AZA Individual Membership.

What can I do to improve my chances of being funded?

Please see the CGF Tips for Success for suggestions.

Are there specific funding categories that I should apply for?

Yes, AZA has defined six specific categories:

  • Animal Health: Research projects that increase knowledge of, or develop new approaches to, assessing or treating medical conditions affecting animals in managed environments or in the wild.
  • Animal Welfare: Research projects that increase knowledge of, or develop new approaches to, assessing the physical health and psychological well-being of individual animals in a managed environment.
  • Conservation Education: Programs that raise public awareness and appreciation of wildlife conservation issues, stimulate conservation action, transfer skills and technology, and/or empower new conservation leaders, particularly in developing countries.
  • Field Conservation: Initiatives on behalf of in-situ threatened species and their habitats, and/or the reintroduction or translocation of these species to augment their population.
  • Animal/Population Management: Zoo and aquarium-based Animal Program management strategies and technologies for ensuring sustainability as well as genetic and demographic diversity.
  • Research: Research projects that increase knowledge of, or create new approaches to, wildlife conservation.

Which funding categories receive the most and the least number of proposals?

Field Conservation receives the most proposals and Animal Health receives the fewest.

What size zoo or aquarium institutions typically apply?

Most proposals are made by larger institutions, however CGF encourages submissions from smaller institutions as the average rate of award success is equal amongst small and large institutions.

Does CGF have any funding restrictions?

Yes. Costs that are not supported include:

  • Salaries for staff appointed to regular, full-time positions. Exceptions include graduate student stipends, technicians, or start-up positions established solely for the purpose of completion of the project.
  • Tuition fees, or fringe benefits associated with graduate students or other collaborators.
  • Administrative costs, including institutional overhead and submission costs for the publication of journal articles.
  • Travel unrelated to completion of the project (e.g., conference presentation expenses).
  • Planning meetings that define, rather than implement, conservation goals.

Are certain types of projects given preference in CGF reviews?

Yes, projects are given preference if they:

  • Reflect the priorities of related AZA Animal Programs and Advisory Groups, or the AZA Board (e.g., sustainability of managed collections, AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction, etc.).
  • Provide a direct link between zoo and aquarium animal collections and the conservation of endangered or threatened wildlife and ecosystems in North America and worldwide.
  • Implement, rather than define, conservation goals.
  • Improve management, welfare, and care of endangered and threatened wildlife in a zoological setting.
  • Are less likely to receive significant support from sources other than the CGF.
  • Are collaborative in nature.
  • Are likely to have a high conservation return for the investment.
  • Are logistically feasible and fiscally and scientifically sound.
  • Benefit a large number of animals, institutions, or programs.

Does CGF fund multi-year projects?

Each CGF grant is for one year only. PIs can apply for a second year of funding, but must do so by submitting a new application. The same component of a project can be funded for a maximum of two cycles. However, different components of the same project are eligible for consideration as new project submissions.

I received CGF funding in the past. Can I apply for another grant?

Yes. CGF grants are intended as seed money to attract other funding sources, and only cover one year of a project's budget at a time. The same component of a project can be funded for a maximum of two cycles. However, different components of the same project will be considered and previous recipients may certainly apply for funding to support a different project. Since CGF proposals are reviewed based on their individual merit, there is not a limit on the number of times a PI can apply for CGF funding - even within a single funding cycle.

What is the average award for CGF grants?

The average CGF award is approximately $18,000.

Can I apply for CGF funding while waiting to hear from another potential funding source for my project?

Yes. You may apply for CGF funding even if you've already applied to other funding sources. You must indicate in the budget section of your CGF application which items (if any) were also requested from other sources and identify all other pending grants. You are required to alert the AZA Conservation office if funding is received that overlaps with the part of the project for which CGF support is requested. The AZA Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) retains the right to revoke any portion of a CGF award if additional funding that overlaps with the CGF portion is accepted.

The CGF only funds certain types of salaries, so how do I know if the salary in my proposal is acceptable?

The CGF cannot fund project-related salaries for staff who are already employed elsewhere, providing them with a "second salary,” nor can CGF support their long-term, regular employment, even if that employment is based on soft-money (e.g., grants). Salaries for graduate students, technicians, and start-up positions established solely for the purpose of completion of the project may qualify for funding.

What are some examples of acceptable salary requests?

  • A project intends to hire a local resident of Belize to provide support for an in-situ conservation education program.
  • A field technician in Kenya will be hired to help track cheetahs for a 3-month field season. This position is essential to the project's local capacity-building goals.
  • Zoo X intends to hire a graduate student from the local university to help with lab work during the course of the project. The student will receive a stipend as compensation.

What are some examples of unacceptable salary requests?

  • Professor X will be performing field research over the summer and requests monetary compensation for his time spent working, even though he is already employed by the university.
  • A zoo veterinarian is requesting hourly or lump-sum funds for performing assays for a research team, in addition to her normal salary. However, support for equipment or lab analysis costs might be eligible.

If I want to include references and citations, where should I place them in the application?

Applicants are encouraged to list references for statements made within the proposal. References may be an appendix, attached as a separate Word document, to the CGF application email.

Do I need to get an endorsement from a related AZA Committee or Animal Program?

No. Although you should be aware of the related Animal Program or Committee research priorities, endorsements are not suggested or required as part of the CGF application. Instead, at least one relevant AZA Animal Program and/or AZA Board-level Committee will review the completed proposal during the review process to address its relevancy to current priorities.

How do I know if I need approval from an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)?

  • IACUC (for U.S. applicants) or the equivalent oversight committee (for non-U.S. applicants) approval is desirable for any proposal, but it is required for any project in which animals are to be involved in invasive procedures or procedures that may result in pain, harm, distress, or altering of behavior. This includes sedating or anesthetizing animals in the wild, but generally excludes samples obtained during regularly scheduled veterinary or husbandry procedures or emergency medical procedures.
  • In these instances, IACUC approval is required for both in-situ and ex-situ projects.
  • Every institution involved in a project must submit the project proposal to its own IACUC for review. All CGF proposals must include the Statement of Institutional Support from each participating organization to certify compliance with all IACUC approval guidelines. This form is included in the CGF application.
  • If an institution is not registered as a research facility or similar facility and therefore does not have an IACUC, the institution must become affiliated with a university, zoo, or other body that has an IACUC in order to obtain approval.

Is it possible to have my proposal checked for logistical errors prior to the deadline?

Each year, proposals are disqualified due to simple mistakes. The AZA Conservation office is happy to check over proposals received at least one week prior to the 5:00 PM EDT, 15 March submission deadline. We strongly encourage applicants to submit their proposals as early as possible to allow time for corrections. CGF administrators are not obligated to alert applicants to errors or omissions in proposals received less than two weeks before the application deadline.

How do I submit a CGF application?

  • The application must be completed and saved in Microsoft Word format.
  • The application must be submitted electronically; hard copy submissions are not accepted.
  • All application materials must be attached to a single email sent to
  • The subject line in the email must be the project name.

How does the review process work?

The CGF application review is a two-tiered process, ensuring that only the proposals of highest quality and relevance are selected for funding. More information and a detailed description of this process can be found on the Selection Process page.

What do I do once my project is funded?

  • Funds become available for disbursement after 1 October each year, and all funds must be disbursed no later than 31 December of that grant cycle year. 
  • Generally, CGF awards are granted through related AZA Animal Programs rather than directly to institutions or individuals. The PI or program leader must contact the CGF-recommended dedicated fund and then request that the money be released to that fund by writing to the AZA Conservation Department at: 8403 Colesville Road, Suite 710, Silver Spring, MD, USA 20910-3314 or by emailing
  • An annual progress report is due one year after funds have been released from CGF and a final report is due two months after the project end date. To learn more about the conditions associated with CGF awards, please read the CGF Grant Terms and Conditions.

Where does the money come from?

  • AZA funds the CGF as one critical component of its effort to meet its conservation objectives. 
  • Beginning in 1995, funds have also been made available through an annual grant to AZA from the Walt Disney Company Foundation / Disney Conservation Fund. 
  • Additional funding for the CGF comes from our annual fundraising appeal to AZA members, special events at the Annual Conference, and from the donations by AZA members and the general public.

How can I donate to the CGF?

Each June, we send out a fundraising appeal to AZA members; however members and the general public can donate at any time. Members donating at least $200 will be recognized at the Annual Conference. All contributors to the CGF are acknowledged in our member magazine, Connect, each year, as well as on AZA's website. Donate now!

Is my contribution tax deductible?

AZA is a non-profit organization exempt from federal income tax under the provisions of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions to the CGF or any fund of the AZA are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.

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